Israel Report

January 2003         

Israel Is Not All Intifada

By Pamela Andrews - January 13, 2003
Was anyone surprised that it happened yet again last Sunday? The recurrent "it" was another of the hellish unprovoked attacks upon civilians in Israel which have become so commonplace that they barely make headline news abroad. But just as green farm fields and snow on Mt. Hermon witness to first time visitors that Israel is not all sand and desert, it is time to state emphatically that Israel is "not all Intifada."

Away from scenes on television cameras in universities, laboratories and offices, Israel's citizens are working on issues of crucial importance to the Middle East and for much of the developing world. These include food technology, climate studies, dry land agriculture and desalination of water. Israel has a highly educated young work force with particular strengths in physics, mathematics, and computer science. The country produces more than 1,700 graduates a year in the life sciences alone. And though more than 40,000 businesses in Israel have closed in the economic downturn of 2 years since the "Oslo Wars" began, research, development, writing and healing continue as a national expression of the Jewish idea of tikkun olam - repairing the world and saving lives.

Local publications regularly report innovative developments like the escape chute designed by Israelis to save people caught in tall buildings during earthquakes, fires, or other disasters. Development of the chute began before the events of 9-11, but became painfully relevant when thousands of people trapped on high floors of the New York World Trade Center could not be saved.

On another front of fixing what is ailing in the world, the website of Ben Gurion University informs readers that her scientists "...predict that they will soon be able to use sea coral for hip replacements and other bone surgery. Researchers at BGU have successfully removed a large section of a dog's femur and replaced it with coral. The dog was walking the next day without infection or rejection... Unlike current expensive techniques, coral bone replacement is as strong as steel. Coral is abundant and cheap and can be harvested without environmental damage."

In the increasingly relevant field of vaccines, scientists at the Weizmann Institute have developed the first successful vaccine for Type I diabetes, in which the human immune system mistakenly reduces and finally stops production of vital insulin. News reports say that with 200 patients successfully treated so far, "the drug, DiaPep277, offers the possibility both of preventing the onset of the disease and of halting its progression." In further vaccine news, Israeli scientists say they will soon be ready to begin mass-producing a newly-developed immunization against anthrax. Unlike the American vaccine which must be taken in six doses, the one from Israel reportedly causes no side effects and is active after only one injection.

More pharmaceutical developments can be expected out of Israel in the future. Like its home country, Teva Pharmaceuticals is a little giant as the largest producer of lower costing generic drugs in the world. Teva currently supplies one in every 15 prescriptions filled in the United States and had 61 new product registrations awaiting FDA approval for 2002.

One of the most fascinating medical contributions from Israel is the so-called "camera in a pill" currently being marketed in more than 40 countries worldwide. The Capsule Endoscope is reminiscent of the popular 1960's movie called "Fantastic Voyage" in which a group of scientists traveled through a human body in a tiny submarine. Given Imaging of Israel has made science fiction into fact with a disposable miniature video camera which is swallowed with a cup of water. The FDA-approved device is approximately the size of a large vitamin and includes a light source, batteries, transmitter and antenna. It travels through the digestive tract making high quality color video images of the entire small intestine. Taking two pictures every second during an 8 hour voyage, the camera transmits wirelessly to a receiver worn by the patient. Doctors can view the images in transit and administer medication directly to problem areas from a tiny tank within the capsule.

More medical and scientific developments are in the pipeline from Israel. Remarkable for a country that is forced to have armed guards at restaurants and weddings, Israel can boast one of the highest per capita publication rates in the world with approximately 7,000 research papers sent abroad by Israeli academics each year.

And what thanks does Israel receive from the rest of the world for these gifts? The distribution of Israeli products is blocked from various European and U.S. stores. Headlines smugly declare of the Jewish student union, "Hillel Expelled from Canadian University" as if a disease has been cured.

Israeli professors are being fired from academic journals simply for their nationality. Lately some academic leaders in other countries have stomped their figurative feet and refused to look at articles from Israel until a "land for peace" agreement is signed in the Middle East. Some have backed down from campaigns to cut ties with Israeli educational and research institutes, but there is growing evidence that the academic boycott of Israel is spreading. In the meantime, saner scientists and research organizations are warning that lives could be lost if new medical advances from Israel continue to be ignored by self-righteous scholars who cut off their academic noses to spite their professional faces.

On an even larger scale, the UN Commission on Human Rights regularly passes anti-Israel resolutions instead of condemning the explosion of Israeli school children and grandmothers in public buses. "The UN Security Council has devoted fully a third of its energy and criticism to the policies of a single (democratic) country: Israel." Yet that small state is one of only five nations sending aid to Soviet Armenia.

Comprising less than one three-hundredth of the world's population, the Jewish people are often disproportionately out in front in agriculture, medicine, military technology, high tech electronics and other arenas of discovery and accomplishment. There is even a 'sabra' astronaut. How can all of this come out of one of the smallest countries on the planet? Undoubtedly, it is because God is directing the details. Tikkun olam persists. In the words of Rabbi Bradley Artson, Israel, like her God, is "a bush ablaze, yet the flame doesn't destroy the bush....still burning, still giving off light.... cast[ing] a healing beam on the rest of humanity." These things are all part of Israel's divine mandate. "Come hell or high water" or even Saddam Hussein, Israel will endure and shine.

©2003 -

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